You’re Flossing (and Brushing) Your Teeth Wrong… Probably

A dental professional’s advice on what we should really be doing.

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Did you know April is Oral Health Month?

Forget your typical brush, floss, mouthwash, repeat. It’s time to upgrade your oral care routine to keep your teeth and gums in tip top shape. In honour of Oral Health Month this year, we spoke to veteran dental hygienist and educator Jo-Anne Jones about the best oral care habits, and how you can get it right every time. And lesson number one? Oral health goes way beyond the mouth.

Oral health is linked to overall health

“They say the eyes mirror the soul, but I say that the mouth mirrors the inside of your body,” says Jones, who’s been a dental health professional for four decades. “If there’s inflammation in your mouth, you’re likely to have inflammation internally, too.” And that’s more serious than it sounds. “Chronic inflammation is at the root of today’s deadly and prevalent diseases,” she says, noting that it can affect several areas of the body including your heart, lungs and brain. Recent studies connect it to Alzheimer’s and the number of COVID-19 patients who end up on respirators and ventilators. In other words, the potential impact of poor gum health is huge. “They’re the protective barrier to the rest of your body. They should be firm, pink and tight.” So, how do you keep those gums healthy?

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Ditch your old tools

“In handing out regular floss and manual toothbrushes, I think the dental profession has done the public a disservice,” says Jones. “We need better tools than that.” With old toothbrushes, there’s too much room for human error. Did you know the average person brushes for only 40 seconds or so – a fraction of the two minutes it should take? And people who don’t change their toothbrush often enough are working with tools that aren’t working the way they’re supposed to. Flossing is also fraught with human fault. “It takes a lot of dexterity to get under the gums and around the tooth. Unless you’re an expert, it’s difficult to do it right.” Luckily, Jones offers a foolproof plan.

Reinvent your flossing routine

Between trips to your dental professional, the Philips Sonicare Power Flosser does the trick. Thanks to the cutting-edge Quad Stream technology, it gets between the teeth and removes up to 99.9% of the plaque in the areas it hits and is up to 180% more effective vs. manual floss. Pulse wave technology guides you from tooth to tooth, with gentle pulses of water, for a more thorough and effective clean. The Philips Sonicare Power Flosser has changed the game for flossing – and it takes only a minute to do. Jones also likes to add a bit of an antibacterial- or cavity-prevention mouthwash, to the water. “Its power to dislodge particles is so strong that it outdoes flossing for the majority of users,” says Jones. “Even as a dental professional, who’s been flossing her whole life, I felt the difference. I felt like I’d just had my teeth cleaned professionally.”

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Upgrade your toothbrush

One of the easiest changes you can make in your oral care routine is to swap out your manual toothbrush for a rechargeable one, and the improvement on your oral healthcare? Priceless. The Philips Sonicare Protective Clean 6100 can boost your oral health and whiten your teeth in just one week, removing up to seven times more plaque than a manual toothbrush. It has three intensities (in case your gums are feeling sensitive); it’ll time your brush (so you know you’re doing the full two minutes); it warns you when you’re pressing too hard (so you’re not compromising structure and enamel); and it’ll tell you when it’s time to replace the brush head (so the bristles are always reaching the places they’re supposed to).

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Establish the right routine

What do the professionals do? “With the right tools in place,” says Jones, “you don’t need to spend a lot of time on your oral health.” Here are her golden rules.
1. Brush first thing in the morning, before you eat to remove bacteria that triggers tooth decay. 2. Always, always, always brush your tongue – more than 60% of the bacteria in your mouth is on your tongue (which is one of the culprits of halitosis – or bad breath).
3. Brushing twice a day is enough. It’s a common and dangerous misconception that you should brush after every meal Here’s why! After you eat, the pH balance in your mouth is off, resulting in an acidic environment. Brushing at this time breaks down enamel like a hot knife cutting through butter, leading to hypersensitivity. Wait at least 30 minutes for pH to neutralize again before you brush.
4. Though you should never brush right after you eat, you could (and should) rinse your mouth with water to help neutralize the pH balance. Also, chew xylitol gum to kill off cavity-causing bacteria between brushings.
5. At night, Power Floss before you brush at night, and add an antibacterial or fluoride mouthwash to your water mix as desired.

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A final note…

Remember that your oral health routine affects much more than your teeth. It stretches into your social interactions (friends want friends with good breath), your overall health (gums are bacteria’s gateway to the body), your mental health (that bacteria can reach the brain), and your self worth (a lot of confidence comes with having a good smile). “In short, your oral health affects not only your quality of life, but your quantity of life,” says Jones. And isn’t that worth the investment?